Common British Garden Birds



Over 500 different species of bird have actually been recorded in Britain, however the true resident species (those that live here most of the year) are numbered at around 130. Many of the others are only seen here occasionally, usually as the result of strong winds or other freak weather conditions.

Blue Tit

The blue tit is one of our most common birds. There are approximately 3.4 million pairs in Britain.

Blue Tit Feeding on Nuts

Common names: Tom Tit, Blue Cap, Blue Bonnet

Favourite Foods: caterpillars, spiders, seeds and fruit.

Lifespan: three years.

The blue tit is a small bird with a short bill. It has a blue crown edged in white, greenish black wings and tail, yellow underparts and a blue black throat.

It uses its bill to forage for tiny insects and grubs amongst plants or from the bark of trees, often perching upside down to reach its prey.

Great Tit

Along with the Blue Tit the Great Tit is one of our most numerous birds. There are approximately 2.5 million pairs in Britain.

Great Tit

Common names: Black Capped Lolly, Black Headed Bob, Pridden Pral

Favourite Foods: butterflies, beetles, spiders, seeds and berries.

Lifespan: three years.

The Great Tit has a black crown and nape to its neck, white cheeks and yellow underparts. Its back is green and the hind, tail and wing feathers are of blue grey with white outer tail feathers.

You can usually hear the Great Tit's call from January to mid June. It normally builds its nest in a hole in a tree or a wall, lined with grass. It lays its eggs in April or May, which are white and speckled with red. Great tit nests have been found in all sorts of unusual places such as pipes and letterboxes.

Song Thrush

You can hear the Song Thrush's very musical song all year round. There are 1.1 million pairs in Britain.

Song Thrush

Common names: Mavis, Throstle

Favourite Food: worms, snails and fruit.

Lifespan: three years.

It is brown or black with a spotted buff breast.

Usually found in gardens, woodlands and hedgerows. This bird should definitely be encouraged into the garden as it likes to eat snails. If you are lucky you can observe it smashing the snail shells open on a stone, in order to get to the meat inside.

The eggs are turquoise and blue, spotted with black. Usually laid in April and May. They like to nest in bushes, trees and creepers. The nests are normally woven from grasses, twigs and leaves.

House Sparrow

The house sparrow likes to nest close to people. There are 5.1 million pairs in Britain.


Common names: Spadger, Spuggie

Favourite Food: seeds and berries in autumn and winter and insects in spring and summer.

Lifespan: three years.

A small (15cm) grey and brown bird, smudged with black. The male is easily recognised by its grey crown and black bib. The female is a duller grey brown.

You can often see these birds bathing in sand and dust, which helps remove parasites. They make untidy nests of stems, stalks, paper and other rubbish; under eaves, in holes or in thick bushes. They usually lay 3 to 6 pale patterned eggs.


A very common bird in British Gardens that can be seen throughout the year. There are 4.9 million pairs in Britain.


Common names: Black Uzzle, Merle, Woofell, Colley

Favourite Food: Insects, earthworms, fruits and berries.

Lifespan: three years.

It has a sweet song that appears very joyous in spring. It also makes a very harsh alarm sound when disturbed.

The male is glossy black with a yellow bill, the female is a browner with a brown bill. Very rarely they can be found completely white.

When the blackbird lands on the ground, to begin feeding, its tail is often raised and he will hop not run. They nest in bushes, trees or creepers. The eggs are pale blue and mottled with brown.

The Swallow

One of our best known of summer visitors, seen most frequently between May and September.

swallows on wire

Common names: barn swallow, river martin

Favourite Food: small insects caught in flight.

Lifespan: four years.

It has a slender build, with long wings and a forked tail that is very easily recognisable in flight. It has a blue plaque sheen on its back with long tail feathers and white to buff underparts. A darker blue band runs just below the throat.

Swallows spend a lot of time in flight as their main food is insects caught on the fly. They can often be seen settling on telegraph wires, usually before their migration the autumn, when hundreds of them gather together.

The nest is saucer shaped and made of mud and straw. They quite often build nests in rafters or on the beams of out-houses and sheds. Eggs are laid between May and August and are white, spotted with brown.


A common bird in open countryside but can often be found in large gardens and parkland. Easily recognisable by its distinctive bright yellow colouring.

Yellow Hammer

Common names: yellow amber, yellow bunting, yellow ring and scribble lark

Favourite Food: seeds, buds, insects, spiders, grain

Lifespan: three years.

It has a yellow head and underparts and chestnut upper parts, streaked with black. Males grow brighter with age. The female is not as bright as the male and has heavier markings on its head.

Nests are made of grass, moss and hair and located mainly in hedgerows and dense bushes. It lays three to five eggs, which are white with brown irregular scribbles.


The Feral or Town Pigeon is derived from the domestic dove and escaped racing pigeons. There are over five million pairs in Britain.


Common names: Cushie Doo, Clatter Dove

Favourite Food: seeds leaves, fruits, berries, buds and root crops.

Lifespan: three years.

The pigeon is easily recognised from its large size and dove-grey plumage. It is not loved by all gardeners because of the damage they can do to vegetable crops and seedlings. Due to their swelling numbers they have now become a pest in many town and city gardens, where they monopolise bird tables, scaring away other smaller birds. If you want to avoid them, use a covered bird table or hanging feeders.


Although the Starling is a partial migrant it is one of our true native British birds. There are about 1.8 million pairs in Britain.


Common names: Sheep stare, Sheeprack, Starn

Favourite Food: insects, berries and seeds.

Lifespan: five years.

Similar to a blackbird, the Starling has a shorter tail and moves differently. You will often see starlings flying in large swooping flocks. These spectacular aerobatic displays are known as ‘murmurations’.

Its feathers are glossy and have a purple green sheen. They live in both towns and countryside. You will often see thousands roosting in city buildings. The nest is very untidy, made of straw and feathers. They lay around nine eggs of pale blue, between April and June.

The Jay

A brightly coloured, nervous shy bird. Found across England and Wales but only a few in Scotland. There are approximately 170,000 pairs in Britain.

The Jay

Common names: Acorn Jay, Devil Scritch

Favourite Food: seeds, insects, chicks and small mammals.

Lifespan: four years.

It has a pinkish-brown body and a black and white crown, and a white rump. The wing feathers are distinctively barred with blue and black.

Its main habitat is in woods and copses but it often visits gardens in the winter for food. Can be a nuisance in the garden as it has a tendency to nip off flower buds. It lives in low undergrowth, in a nest of twigs and earth, laying around 5 to 7 eggs of olive or buff. Jays are known to bury acorns for the winter - the ones they forget about then grow into oak trees.


A large species of birds including some of the commonest native birds to the UK. There are 5.8 million pairs in Britain.


Common names: Copper Finch, Pea Finch, Apple Sheller, Flackie, Boldie

Favourite Food: mostly seeds but also insects during summer.

Lifespan: three years.

The males have a blue crown, a chestnut mantle and a burnt sienna breast. The female is much duller with an olive green back. Both sexes have a white patch on the shoulders. In the summer they go around in mating pairs but in winter they fly in flocks of separate sexes.

Nests are made of moss and wool, lined with hair, built in shrubs, hedges and trees. Eggs are pale grey, spotted and streaked.

Chaffinches have accents. In France they sing different songs to those in Britain and even within the UK there is a variety in the songs in different areas.


Often seen in December but can be seen all year around in gardens. There are six million pairs in Britain.

Common names: Redbreast, Bob Robin

Favourite Food: beetles, worms, seeds, fruits and berries.

Lifespan: two years

Robins are friends of the gardener, hoping we’ll turn over the soil and expose an earthworm or grub. Although friendly they are very territorial and can be aggressive if approached. In the spring the male's breast is bright red. The female is duller and lays four to six eggs, which are buff or mottled.

Nests are constructed of dead leaves and moss lined with hair. The song of the Robin is very sweet and charming.

Images courtesy of Pixabay. Public Domain Images released under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

Article Index